Questioning the Conditional Visibility of the Chinese

(Non)Normative Representations of China and Chineseness in Chilean Cultural Productions


In: Journal of Chinese Overseas
Maria Montt Strabucchi Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

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Carol Chan Universidad Academia de Humanismo Cristiano

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Despite a long history of Chinese presence in Chile and the Americas, the Chinese tend to remain in a state of conditional visibility. Questioning the paradoxical ubiquity and invisibility of expressions of Chineseness in the physical and cultural landscape of Santiago, we examine cultural and discursive processes of (re)production that contribute to this scenario. Informed by understandings of identity and contextualized by the history of the Chinese presence in Chile, we consider the diverse ways in which Chinese people and Chineseness are portrayed on Chilean television and in films and theatre plays. We examine how these representations enable forms of subordination and silencing, and/or highlight the agency of Chinese persons. We show that while Chineseness and Chinese people are typically depicted as one-dimensional and incomprehensible, some productions visibilize and problematize such empty stereotypes. Finally, we demonstrate how these representations resignify Chineseness in a broader Latin American and global context.

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